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East Texas Baptist University Theatre showcases graduate preparedness

November 29, 2021

The ETBU School of Communication and Performing Arts took the stage November 18-19 for their productions of Sylvia by A.R. Gurney and Any Body for Tea? by C.B. Gilford. Two ETBU graduating seniors directed the shows to simulate Texas UIL One Act Play competitions and prepare them for their future careers.

“In our curriculum, the BSE Theatre Education student learns the performance and technical aspects of the theatre,” ETBU Associate Professor of Theatre Arts John Dement said. “They also learn the history and cultural influences they will need to teach the next generation. From a practical standpoint, when our BSE Theatre Education majors graduate, they have chosen, cut, directed, and designed all aspects of a University Interscholastic League One Act Play show. While we do not follow all of the rules involved, our graduates understand the importance of the UIL show and how to make choices that will benefit them in the schools where they work. We also provide each graduate with a ¼” scale replica of the UIL One Act Play set. This will help them design sets in their future schools as well.”

ETBU senior theatre arts education major Avrie Chapman directed Sylvia, a story about a man and his dog, and the binding force behind the presence of love.

“ETBU has definitely prepared me for the real world in many ways,” Chapman said. “I have learned how to be more independent than I ever have been before, I have made lifelong friendships, I learned how to teach my future students, and just recently had my first directing opportunity! Through this show, I learned that directing is never easy, but if you have great people to help you through something, it’s much easier to have a great time doing it. I have loved every second of this process and getting to work with some of the most talented and kindhearted people I have ever met! I know that not every show I direct in the future will be like this, but this one is definitely one for the books, and I will never forget my experience here in the ETBU Music and Theatre Department!”

The second production, Any Body for Tea?, was directed by ETBU senior theatre arts education major Anna Simmons. The show encompasses the power of the mind as a few of the main characters, though challenged physically by old age, are always thinking one step ahead and leave audiences intrigued with dark but witty humor.

“Directing this show was challenging, but it was so rewarding,” Chapman said. “Oddly enough, my greatest challenge was myself. Having never directed a show before, I had to present my ideas in a way that made people know I was sure of them, even if they were not the best ones. I realized that details are even more important than the big picture sometimes. What helped me the most was the people here. I would be nowhere without them. ETBU has provided the opportunity for us to observe teachers, which has really helped me. I believe it has really enhanced my learning.”

While the shows vary greatly in terms of style, pacing, and story, the lessons learned about directing theatre productions remain similar as both Chapman and Simmons prepare to graduate from ETBU and pursue their respective careers.

“Both shows were tremendous in their final productions,” Dement added. “Our audiences were very pleased when they left, with only great things to say about the actors and their student directors. I know that Avrie and Anna Beth learned many things along the way, but what I hope they took away from this experience was the satisfaction of seeing a show through the entire process to end in success. They both deserve to be proud of their work this semester.”